Create a Strong Culture of Innovation in Your Company
American Greetings and U.S. Bank shared valuable tips to helping companies shift to a stronger culture of innovation on our hangout, How to Create a Culture of Innovation in Your Company”, which is part of our “Innovation by Design” webinar series.
Our panelists of Innovation and Design Thinking experts included–
American Greetings – Lisa Wascovich, Director of Digital Innovation
U.S. Bank – Valerie Lancelle, Vice President of Innovation
Creating a culture of innovation is a challenge across the board. From finding leadership that can champion the efforts, to developing the right team of innovators, creating a culture of innovation is one of the biggest challenges companies face today.
For those facing the challenge of how to innovate, you know it can be harder to get companies to be willing to invest in something they cannot often set ROI metrics to upfront.
For companies that are not used to these practices, creating a culture of innovation can seem overwhelming and unnecessary. But the challenge is necessary, as the survival and growth of companies nowadays requires this shift in thinking.
What Are The Key Characteristics of Great Innovators and Design Thinkers?
We started the hangout off with a discussion of the key characteristics of successful innovation and design thinking individuals and their teams. Lisa and Valerie shared some critical criteria to look for:
Collaboration – Be the leader that follows. Some of the most effective leaders in the innovation space are those who know how to sit back and let their teams lead themselves through their process.
Empathy – See and feel your consumer’s pain (and joy). Having the ability to observe the world from other viewpoints and various perspectives is vital to creating a successful innovation team. Seek to understand (with empathy), test and learn.
“Thrive to Survive” in Ambiguity or Chaos – Get comfortable in the ambiguity of the unknown and own it. A lot of innovation work starts out with many unknowns. Getting comfortable in those unknowns and then being able to quickly shift is paramount to success in the innovation space.
Amazing Communication Skills – Be able to translate ideas visually and beyond. Whether it be simply sketching something on a post-it note, or creating a prototype, having outstanding communication is crucial for innovation teams. The value of having excellent storytelling skills was also discussed on our hangout, “Understanding How Design Thinkers Think”.
Be Curious and Ask ‘Why?’ – Simply asking why and asking it often will uncover unforeseen opportunities.
Be Self Confident – It is important that an innovator is comfortable sharing ideas to executives and all levels. An innovator needs to bring ideas forward and not be passive.
What Culture Helps Companies Be More Innovative?
Next we discussed some of the challenges companies face when it comes to developing cultures centered around innovation. Valerie of U.S. Bank shared that “risk adverse companies need to shift to a culture that is supportive of risk and testing of hypotheses. This needs to come down from the top as well as middle management.”
Companies who hire innovation leaders with the characteristics described above can cultivate a culture of innovation at a much more rapid rate. Also companies who are clear and communicate what “innovation” means and the impact it is expected to have on the company, have a greater chance of creating an open culture of innovation. Having executive sponsors who are vocal and supportive is mandatory to helping to address roadblocks and move innovation forward.
Lisa of American Greetings share that “failing fast is critical. And being open to trying new things that may not go the way you planned should be okay. This makes having a process key so you can stay focused yet still shift as needed. Also having a budget and the right people will enable a company to be more innovative.”
Both panelists stressed that it is important to understand that ROI will not happen on Day 1. Planning needs to allow for curiosity and innovation first, then looking at the ROI second. This means having separate, unshared resources allocated to innovation so they are not competing for the same budgets as those with proven ROI.
The discussion of a company’s office space set up was an interesting one. An open environment is often thought to encourage collaboration. Our panelist agreed on this, yet Lisa did say that different spaces are needed so when someone needs deep thinking time, they can go to a quiet space, too.
How Do Large Companies Socialize Innovation Internally?
Over-communicating is extremely important to the success of a growing culture of innovation. Success comes when specific business challenges are aligned to the innovation efforts—and it is clear how innovation is supporting company goals and initiatives. In this way, employees feel their time matters for the good of the company so they are more inspired to help.
Valerie shared that “Innovation is about learning and discovering the ‘what if’”. Successes and why these are positive news should be shared. People want to be included so engaging them helps to build the excitement and involvement. And asking their input helps them feel ownership, too. This input could be about goals, topics for challenges, participation in a Shark Tank, hackathon…It is important to give all employees a way to participate.”
Both Lisa and Valerie talked about the importance of giving people visibility to senior management so they can share their ideas. Using case studies or stories to highlight people both inside and outside the innovation department matters.
How Does a Company Get Started With Focusing on Innovation?
Lisa of American Greetings stressed that a true shift in culture happens when money and people are assigned to innovation — and they are dedicated to it versus partial jobs or shared budgets that compete for proven ROI initiatives.
The full recorded hangout shares many valuable insights and best practices from U.S. Bank, American Greetings and Altitude on how they have begun and shifted their innovation culture to where it is today.
Please listen to the recorded hangout, “How to Create a Culture of Innovation in Your Company” for more valuable tips and insights from the experts who have done just that. And feel free to reach out with any questions!